Diving in Eyjafjörður
Thoughts of scuba diving usually involve sun-kissed beaches and tropical fish, so perhaps it’s surprising that some of the world’s most fascinating diving lies within Iceland’s frigid waters. Most divers flock to crystalline Silfra near Þingvellir in the south, but the real diving dynamo, known as Strýtan, lurks beneath Eyjafjörður.
Strýtan, a giant cone (55m) soaring up from the ocean floor, commands a striking presence as it spews out gushing hot water. This geothermal chimney – made from deposits of magnesium silicate – is truly an anomaly. The only other Strýtan-like structures ever discovered were found at depths of 2000m or more; Strýtan’s peak is a mere 15m below the surface.
In addition to Strýtan, there are smaller steam cones on the other side of Eyjafjörður. Known as Arnanesstrýtur, these smaller formations aren’t as spectacular, but the water bubbling out of the vents is estimated to be 11,000 years old. The water is completely devoid of salt, so you can put a thermos over a vent, bottle the boiling water, and use it to make hot chocolate when you get back to the surface!
Diving around the island of Grímsey is also memorable. The water is surprisingly clear here, but the main draw is the bird life: guillemots swoop down deep as they search for food. Swimming with birds is definitely a strange experience – when the visibility is particularly good it can feel like you’re flying.
To check out these and other underwater curiosities in the north (including fissures and geothermal rivers), contact Erlendur Bogason at Strytan Divecentre, based at Hjalteyri, about 20km north of Akureryri. Erlendur discovered Strýtan in 1997, and now officially protects it. Check the website for the diving experience required; note that there is also the opportunity for drysuit snorkelling in some locales.